INTRODUCTION: Among nearly a million refugees in Portugal from the break-up of the nation's overseas colonies are several hundred families from Timor -- now occupied by Indonesia.
SVs INTERIOR Timor refugees attending church service in progress in Lisbon, Portugal (6 shots)
SV Refugees walking home from church
LV ZOOM IN refugees camp
SVs Refugees in camp (4 shots)
GV Mail-truck arriving
CUs Indonesian stamps in letters from Timor (2 shots)
GV & SVs Refugees in camp (2 shots)
SVs & CUs Refugee family (4 shots)
SVs & CU Refugees having meal in communal dining hall (3 shots)
REPORTER: "Mass on Sunday mornings usually reminds the Timor refuges what they've lost -- their homes, most of their possessions, and in some cases close relatives. But the priest tells them they still have their minds and bodies fro building new live far away from their old homes in Timor.
"Technically, the Timorese who take communion here each Sunday are not refugees at all -- they're evacuees from the Portuguese colony of Timor that's now under Indonesian occupation. They hold Portuguese passports, and they're being housed and fed in Portugal, but they call themselves refugees because that's what they say they feel they are.
"The way home from church is along a dirt road that's muddy when it rains, and dusty when the Spring sunshine dries it out. It leads to a Red Cross flag amid a cluster of tents and wooden huts that have given the Timor refugees emergency shelter for more than six months. Yet despite their primitive conditions -- the over-crowding, the winter mud, and the long walk to wash their clothes or to be fed -- the Timor refugees are in fairly high spirits.
They've managed to remain united, despite a mixture of political views.
"The few censored letters and postcards they no get from home remind them again of the reality of Timor today. The post-mark is Dili, but the stamps are Indonesian, showing the face of President Suharto. Unemployment is their biggest obstacle. Of the 400 men in this camp, only 15 have so far managed to get jobs. The others live in hope -- especially, the hope of being allowed to migrate to Australia. Among those who expect to leave soon for Australia is this couple, who spent a chilly European Winter in a tent with their three small children, who've had colds or bronchitis almost constantly. They expect to be allowed into Australia because they have relatives there already. But the Timor refugees' leaders say they expect only two or three hundred will be allowed to enter Australia, and at best that's only about one ion five of those that have been evacuated to Portugal.
"Three times a day, the refugees are given nourishing meals, cooked in Red Cross kitchens financed with American aid. Second helpings are allowed, and there's Portuguese red wine for those who want it. But the Timor refugees say they're way down the list of priorities, with a Portugal which is struggling to cope with nearly a million "returnees' as they're called from her African and Asian colonies."
REPORTER: JOHN PENLINGTON
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: INTRODUCTION: Among nearly a million refugees in Portugal from the break-up of the nation's overseas colonies are several hundred families from Timor -- now occupied by Indonesia. East Timor, a Portuguese colony for the past four centuries, was annexed by Indonesia last year after a civil war. The refugees, officially called 'returnees', are housed in a make-shift camp of wooden hunts and tents on the outskirts of Lisbon -- and living in hope of making a new life elsewhere. A reporter visited the camp to see just how much hope they've got in a country which is already struggling with its own domestic social and financial problems.